Email doesn’t stop, does it? There’s a steady drip of it, typically beginning Monday morning, that surges ever upward on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
But then you wake up on Friday, and you keep checking your email, and nope, there are no new emails.
Plus, emails that came in overnight are practically nil (unless you work with people stationed half a world away).
Why is that? What does it mean for small businesses?
Workplace experts say the Friday email slowdown is part of the evolving work week. Since many people are checking their emails all the time, work flows are changing.
“Because of technology, there are no natural boundaries to work and life, and so people have to figure out how to make some boundaries and one way people are doing it is Fridays and in particular Friday afternoons,” says Brandon Smith, an adjunct professor at Emory University.
In other words, people are no longer working strictly Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. In fact, they are putting in much longer days. That means at some point they need a breather.
“People are taking vacations in the form of extended weekends,” says Smith, who calls himself the "workplace therapist", “rather than take your traditional two weeks.”
It’s no surprise then that Adweek finds the peak time for activity on Pinterest is Fridays at 3 p.m. Fridays are also peak times, according to to trends analyzed by Microsoft, for posting fun stuff on Twitter and Facebook.
Email is one of the best manifestations of this trend. Email marketers are particularly aware of the distribution of emails throughout the work week. Hamilton House Mailings, one of England’s largest direct mail firms, estimated that in 2014, the number of emails delivered on a Friday had been about half the number delivered on other days.
Hamilton House’s Tony Attwood theorizes that in some cases, people use Fridays to write emails that they plan to send the following week.
The trend is not surprising in corporate America, where during the summer, for example, Friday afternoons have long been the one time of the week workers could slip out earlier.
But for small businesses that depend on every sale and need every new client, losing an entire day could spell trouble.
Attwood, however, argues that the Friday email slowdown makes Fridays the best day to send emails to clients, including email marketing campaigns.
“Because so few emails go out on a Friday, recipients pay more attention to the emails they do get," he wrote on the firm’s blog.
The email trend shows Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the most productive days of the week. Smith, the workplace therapist, compares it to interval training.
“You’re sprinting between Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and you’re preparing for that spring on Mondays and then slowing down on Friday,” he says.
Slowing down Friday, potentially for a long, three-day weekend away from work.
With a schedule like that, Smith says, “you lose the sabbatical effect” of a long vacation. But he adds, “The advantage is you get these shorter breaks. It’s for people to choose: Do you need a sabbatical? Do you need a short break?”
More and more people are choosing the short break, and that means working less on Fridays. So, if you have a really important email to send, you may not want to wait until Friday. On the other hand, you may not even be working on Friday, so we’re preaching to the choir.